I Was Born, But… (Ozu, 1932)

Even at the tender age of 29, Yasujiru Ozu understood the powerful complexity of a child’s expectations. In this early silent, Ozu examines a stage in every child’s life when the high pedestal our parents reside begins to seem a little less impressive, even ordinary. A scary thought indeed, when the ideals, the legendary status our parents hold, becomes slightly cracked. Ozu’s two young and rambunctious protagonists are brothers and sons first and foremost, willing to stick up for one another and their family at the smallest slight of hand. Immersed in the whimsey of being young boys at play, they constantly compare the stature of their father with those of the other young ruffians scuttling about the country town. The bright impressions of their hardworking dad begin to dim when the boys see him in an embarrassing light, causing a small but crucial rift in their familial relationship. Father and sons, drawn closer by circumstance, must talk it out, coming to grips with varying expectations. A novel thought.Such a small story, contained within one segment of this family’s life, yet Ozu’s vision feels revolutionary in it’s special attention to faces; the expressions, the doubts, the realizations of a child’s complex relationship with their parents. Ozu’s mastery of space allows the story to evolve at a distinct and inherent pace, molded perfectly around the character’s natural evolution. Even his use of the ellipsis in the title infers a natural allowance for change, shifts, the unknown that lies ahead; a great metaphor for young minds in transition. Technically not a word is ever spoken, but personalities are heard clearly and forcefully. Ozu loves these characters, and at such a young age, displays a wisdom toward family dynamics one must seek out and celebrate.

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